Martina Evans’s eponymous Mules are shoes brought to her as an exotic gift by an American relation. They suggest to her the possibility of a very different world, one which the poems’ speakers set out to explore. As happens so often in her poems, new and invented experiences throw into vivid relief Evans’s own intensely lived experiences.
We revisit places her readers have encountered before – the radiography units of hospitals and their merciless work culture, in which the speakers must survive; a London densely populated by both human and animal characters whose colours and aspect she brilliantly evokes, and Burnfort, County Cork, with its bars and gossip and childhood complications, a subject of her lyrics. And, in the wake of the success of her 2018 book-length sequence, Now We Can Talk Openly About Men, she gives us a new long poem, Mountainy Men, which re-imagines family trauma through the prism of classic American cinema… American Mules is two books and two or more worlds in one.
Evans’s English makes different noises in the imagining of Ireland, England and America, but the same wise, wry, inventive mouth speaks them all. The Irish Times described her as ‘a subtle, challenging writer with a wonderfully destructive approach to the pieties she describes.’